All offseason, we’re all going to be talking about the same thing. How can the Reds get from where they are to where they want to be. I mean, we feel okay about he offense, but they have a primary infielder who was below replacement level and an outfielder who continually falls well short of his potential. So much so that you have to wonder sometimes if the Reds know what they’re doing.
The 1990 Reds, I mean.
In 1990, the primary first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds was one of the worst players in the league. He was “worth” -1.5 WAR. Remember Todd Benzinger? In the outfield, there was a player with heralded tools who just couldn’t generate the offense everyone felt he needed to generate and so, he was below average, worth only 1.3 WAR. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Paul O’Neill.
In fact, only Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and Hal Morris managed to provide above-average value among position players. The 1990 team wasn’t really an offensive power house. It was more of a pitching team. But maybe you knew that already.
But you may not remember that the 1989 Reds weren’t so great at pitching. The rotation was a shambles, with only two pitchers starting more than 20 games (not good for the era).
The point I want to make here is that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we know. A team with players who don’t hit well particularly well can win the World Series (you already know about Benzinger, but Joe Oliver also provided Billy Hamilton-level hitting in 1990). A team with players who are mismanaged like O’Neill, in hindsight, clearly can win the World Series. A team with a rotation that doesn’t seem very healthy or stable can win the World Series the next year.
Every World Series winner is both good and lucky.
There is a lot of talk about what the Reds HAVE to do. That they can’t win with Jose Peraza getting 400 or 500 PAs. That they can’t win with Hamilton getting serious at bats. I promise you this, whatever you think is an absolute requirement for a World Series champion, some team has won the World Series without that thing before.
What the Reds need to do is get better. How they get better doesn’t matter except there are obvious places where the options to improve are cheaper/easier. Studies have been done. A stars and scrubs lineup is just as effective as a lineup where everyone is a little above average. A hitting team can win. A pitching team can win. Teams win with bad managers and lose with great managers.
I do not know if the Reds will be good in 2018. I don’t necessarily know the easiest ways for them to improve (though I suspect the names Winker, Senzel, Castillo, and Mahle are involved), but I want to try to constantly maintain a view of the big picture. It may be that Jose Peraza (I don’t mean to keep picking on him, I think his changed plate approach from the second half actually bodes quite well) doesn’t improve and he still gets 500 PAs and the Reds still win the wild card. There are many possible paths to the playoffs.
After all, we’ve seen it before.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.